The Investigators: Travel scams on the rise as restrictions lift on summer vacationers

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 10:47 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As travel restrictions lift worldwide, Mid-Southerners are booking vacations.

Travelers could be vulnerable to scams.

An Eads woman who wanted to book a family vacation ended up losing hundreds of dollars. Taranika Moorer planned to fly eight family members to Orlando, Florida last year.

“My grandmother has Alzheimer’s, so this, for us is just our time with her building memories because I know she doesn’t remember us often,” said Moorer.

She says she booked the airline tickets through Travelers Desks, which was recommended to her by a friend.

They offered checked bags, you pick your seats,” said Moorer, all for a cheaper price than what the airline offered.

“I had to pay with a debit card. They booked my tickets and I got a confirmation number,” Moorer said.

As the number of COVID-19 cases began to rise, Moorer wanted to cancel the trip. She says the company stopped responding to her emails and phone calls, so she called the airline she was supposed to fly with and discovered it had no record of her family.

Moorer says she lost $1,200 .

“I just felt like I let my family down by losing our money,” she said.

“There are lots of third party sites that are legitimate, but there are so many of them that aren’t,” said Daniel Irwin, with research and investigations at the Mid-South Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Irwin answers scam victims’ calls and takes their reports for the BBB’s scam tracker tool where consumers can search by region or scam type to find what scammers are trying to pull in their area. He says right now, travel scams are on the rise in the Mid-South.

“People are wanting to get out of their homes, they’re wanting to travel more than ever, and scammers know that,” said Irwin.

The BBB received only five travel scams reports last year for a total loss of $3,200.

There’s already been 11 reported scams this year for a loss so far of more than $5,300.

One woman reported to the BBB that she lost $3,900 after trying to change her flight through Delta. She searched for Delta’s customer service phone number online but unknowingly found an imposter instead.

“We needed to pay over $180 to cover the airfare difference,” she told the BBB.

The later discovered the person took a lot more than that from her bank account, and Delta confirmed to her than she had been scammed.

“You just have to be really careful and verify everything,” said Irwin.

As for Moorer, she wants to warn others who may be anxious to travel and find a good deal.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it is literally too good to be true. Do not fall for it,” she said.

To avoid falling for a travel scam, the BBB urges you read reviews and research the company you plan on booking with, always make online purchases with your credit card, and be wary of any company that doesn’t have a physical address listed on its website.

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